Wednesday, February 9, 2011

my first week in Thailand

Upon arrival in Thailand, I was greeted by Jess Watson, a fellow fruit eater and soon-to-be best friend. We met up with two Irish folk- Gavin and Trina- and hit the road to Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand. As soon as we left the airport, I witnessed motorbikes going the wrong way on the interstate, weaving in and out of cars, and I was assured by my new friends that this was normal and that there was no need to worry. Funny enough, they were right – it was only the first of many crazy traffic situations i was to experience. After 9-10 hours of driving (and for me, over 24 hours of total transit time), we were finally there.

DAY ONE- Doi Inthanon

The first day we were in Chiang Mai, we headed straight for the mountains. Our first destination was Doi Inthanon, the highest point in Thailand. We did a bit of hiking and sightseeing and enjoyed the views.

Later that night, Jess and I met up with Indigo, another raw vegan. We bought durian off the streets and had a feast. Many of you know what durian is simply from me talking about it so much, but in case you don’t, it is a delicious creamy fruit from Thailand. It has a bad reputation for its smell, but I think it is lovely! It is banned from public transport and hotels here, but despite that fact, it is surely a treat!!! It was my first time having fresh durian, as the fruit in the U.S. is first frozen to be imported. Needless to say, it was absolute heaven!!! That is, after we finally got the durian open...

You see, all the durian I have had in the past have had reasonably thin shells, so I could just throw it at the ground and it would crack, making it easy to open the durian. However, these were very thick-skinned durian so they were harder to open. Being the determined person I am, I kept throwing the durian at the ground hoping for it to crack open. I’d throw it down and it would roll away from me. I probably looked completely ridiculous... Imagine 3 white girls hanging out in this abandoned park, throwing durian at the ground and chasing after it... hilarious. A couple Thai guys saw us and came over to see what we were up to. They thought we were playing soccer! They ended up helping us open the durian with a knife. (THANK YOU!!!) So then... we feasted!!! It was delicious.

DAY TWO- Doi Sui Tep

This morning we woke up and headed straight to the big fruit markets for brekkie. We bought heaps of papaya, dragon fruit, bananas, and more.

Jess feasting on dragonfruit:

On the way back home, we took a TukTuk, one of the many forms of transportation in Thailand. On the way back home, the tuktuk driver stopped at the laundromat to do his laundry. Oh man, I love Thailand. After that, he got us lost and after much confusion and many laughs, we finally made it back.

showing the tuktuk driver where to go...

We headed off to Doi Dui Tep, a big elaborate temple on one of the surrounding mountains. Before we even left town, we noticed we had a flat tire, so we went to the CockPit to get it fixed. It took ages but we were led into the waiting room, where we watched hilarious Thai music videos and shared many many laughs. Thailand is funny.

The temple was huge, beautiful, and interesting to see. Here are some pictures:

Apparently people can't read...
THE CUTEST little girl...

Later that day we were eating lunch by the car and guess who we saw!? PON! The guy who helped us open durian the night before! It was so funny to see him again and his face lit up as soon as he saw us. We ended up talking for quite a while and he taught us some new Thai phrases.

We then went to a monk chat, where we talked to a couple monks about their lives and Buddhism. The program was supposed to help the monks learn English and meanwhile educate foreigners with small-group conversation with them. We probably talked to them for about 2 hours and learned a lot about their lives. Interesting. When we were leaving, Jess and I tried to start some small talk by asking if they liked durian and professing our love for the fruit, and the monk said “okay........ buhbye!!!!!!” Too funny.

That night Jess and I ate durian for dinner – surprise, surprise!!!

DAY THREE- Phu Chi Fah (Chiang Rai)

Today we went to Chiang Rai, a province near Chiang Mai. We went to a market, ate some food, and then decided to check out Phu Chi Fah, an area that was recommended to Jess for its beauty. It ended up being 6 hours from Chiang mai... totally worth the drive.

Oh boy... it was beautiful.

The ride there was stunning – my eyes were glued to the window and my jaw was open nearly the whole way. Absolutely amazing. The beauty of the place had my body buzzing with energy and my mind racing.

When we got there, we followed signs to a lookout – not knowing exactly what it would be. After turning a corner, we saw a cliff in the background and we knew that was it.

The view was incredible. Wow. You could see Laos from there, as we were right on the border. Many blue mountains. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It was almost like this place was a secret from foreigners – NOBODY spoke English, and there were no other foreigners around. I am so glad that we were able to experience this place.

DAY FOUR- Wat U Mong
In the morning, Jess and I decided to get massages. Massage here is very cheap compared to in the U.S. – we got an hour massage for about 7 bucks.

After that we went to Wat U Mong, the forest temple. It was my favorite temple because it was so earthy and less elaborate. There were many trees with profound quotes on signs along with lots of animals everywhere, which made it feel homey and down to earth. It felt like it would be a great place for meditation, which I think is what they focus on at this particular temple.


dogs are EVERYwhere in the city & at temples in thailand:
catching a glimpse of a couple monks

It was New Years so that night we feasted on... guess what!? DURIAN! Jess and I had a lovely dinner and then laid in the park and contemplated life.

We started to see lanterns in the sky so we headed back into the main square to hang out and watch the sky. We checked out the night bizarre market and just waited for time to pass. After a countdown, it was 2011.... unreal! Seewatdee Pi mai!!! Happy new Year!!!
fireworks in the middle of the street... as a tuktuk was driving on the road

Today we went to Pai. Just in case you ever go, make sure you fill up your gas tank BEFORE you start going up the mountains to Pai, as apparently gas stations aren’t needed in a 70km stretch of land!? We found that out the scary way! We drove 60kms with our gas light on, going up hill through the mountains. It was quite hectic, as there were deep ditches on either side of the road and nowhere to really pull off in case of emergency. Not to mention, there were a line of cars and also some extremely dangerous overtaking happening all around us!!! We drove in neutral down most hills and crossed our fingers that the car wouldn’t die in the middle of the road. Well... long story short, we made it to Pai!!! The car started to die as soon as we saw the gas station. Perfect timing. A scary ride for sure.

We didn’t really know what to do so after stopping and eating a bit of lunch, we drove around through little villages (I swear it’s like they haven’t seen white people in years, lol!) We ended up at this Chinese (?) little touristy theme park thing, where we rode a primitive hand-powered ferris wheel – pretty fun!

Next we headed to the hot springs where we enjoyed the nice hot water!!!!
crazy about roots... makes my creative mind go nuts!
I LOVE things like this:

we also checked out this beautiful waterfall:
a cool mirror shot somewhere along the way:

That night Jess and I shared durian with Indigo at her place. Indigo is studying thai massage so she gave jess a massage and did some work on my previously injured foot. It was an eventful day!

DAY SIX- Back to Bangkok

After drinking HEAPS of young coconuts, we headed back to Bangkok today!

It took 13+ hours with the million other people heading back. On the way we stopped in the middle of nowhere, northern Thailand, and took this photo:

I am extremely thankful for my parents! Without them, none of this traveling would be possible. They have worked extremely hard to give me these amazing opportunities, and I have so much gratitude for everything they do for me. Mom and Dad, thanks for showing me the world. You have opened my mind and allowed me to have these life-changing experiences that helped me grow as a person. I love you.

Overall, my trip to Northern Thailand was incredible. My new Irish friend, Gavin, summed it up nicely on his facebook status:

Numbers for the last 7 days: 4 wheels, 4 cameras, 26 Thai provinces, 3028km of road (64km on empty), 5869m of mountain, several hundred pieces of fruit, 700+ photographs, 1000s of fireworks, 2km of ziplining in the jungle, several inappropriate stories, 1 wooden push powered ferris wheel. Uncountable hilarious moments with Jess Watson and Ashley Hamilton.